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SciTech Standards on Demand: What are standards?

This guide provides information on library policies regarding standards, what standards are, how to find standards, and about our SciTech Standards on Demand program for requesting the purchase of standards.

What is a standard?

A standard provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics to be used to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are appropriate for whatever purpose they may serve (International Organization for Standardization. (n.d.). Standards. Retrieved from

What does a standard include?

A standard might provide information like specifications, requirements, guidelines, characteristics, or ways to ensure safety, reliability, or environmental care.

►A specification provides a detailed description of work to be done or materials or materials to be used (specification. 2016. In Retrieved from 

A specification might look like this:

(Texas Department of Transportation. 2012. DMS-4550 Fibers for concrete. Retrieved from )

►A requirement is something that is necessary for something else to happen or be done (requirement. 2016. In Retrieved from 

Requirements might look like this:

(Texas Department of Transportation. 2004. DMS-8100 Structural steel paints- formula. Accessed from

►A guideline is a rule or instruction that shows or tells how something should be done (guideline. 2016. In Retrieved from 

A guideline might be similar the following:

“Pulverization Equipment: Provide pulverization equipment that: cuts and pulverizes material uniformly to the proper depth with cutters that plane to a uniform surface over the entire width of the cut; provides a visible indication of the depth of cut at all times, and uniformly mixes the materials.”

(Texas Department of Transportation. 2014. Standard specifications for construction and maintenance of highways, streets, and bridges.)

►A characteristic is a distinguishing trait, quality, or property (characteristic. 2016. In Retrieved from

Characteristics might be similar to the following:

“4.2 Pilot frequency: The 8-VSB pilot is normally 309.441 kHz above the lower edge of the channel assigned to the DTV transmitter, except when the DTV transmitter is required by the FCC to offset its pilot frequency in order to minimize interference caused to a lower adjacent channel analog TV station. In that case, the pilot frequency is required to be 5.082,138 MHz (±3 Hz) above the visual carrier of the analog station [FCC 47CFR§73.622(g)].”

(IEEE. 2008. IEEE std 1631 - IEEE recommended practice for measurement of 8-VSB digital transmission mask compliance for the USA.)

Where does a standard come from?

Standards can come from many place. The list below is not meant to be exhaustive, but a small sample of possible authoritative groups that produce standards.

  • American Concrete Institute (ACI)
  • American Petroleum Institute (API)
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
  • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)
  • International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

What is not a standard?

Standards do not include

  • Technical reports
  • Conference reports
  • Conference proceedings
  • Journals or other periodicals
  • A handbook or guide
  • Items that are not agreed upon by an authoritative group (e.g. it is self-published, or from an individual's website)

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